A tragic disconnect on climate change

Oh, how I miss winter! Remember how the snow crunched underfoot and reflected back into our squinting eyes, releasing a smile? Remember when the Kenai River froze up tight in December and slumbered quietly until April? In January temperatures down to 35 below were often interrupted by a brief chinook that reduced our trips to the woodpile but never took the snow away completely. All our Christmases were white.

Too bad our congressional delegation basically lives in Washington, D.C. They have obviously missed these changes, don’t listen to the elders, and have clearly chosen to skip the science articles in Alaska newspapers. One senator proudly posed as a poster child for the industrialist Koch brothers, “waiting for more science” to prove that the burning of fossil fuels by humans is warming the planet to the extent that great swaths of land may one day become uninhabitable and tiny island nations will disappear into a warming sea. An ocean that is becoming too acidic for some shell-building creatures to thrive, an ocean that may no longer be able to sustain the salmon runs we rely on for sustenance.

And the irony! The same papers that carried the news of the warmest October, in the warmest year, in the warmest decade since recordings began also reported that our two senators voted to oppose the president’s decision to phase out coal-fired power plants, a move that would begin to eliminate one of our country’s greatest sources of greenhouse gas pollution. What a tragic disconnect!

As the Paris climate change meetings begin, I’m embarrassed and ashamed that Alaska’s delegation is so willfully ignorant and shortsighted. Those of us who have noticed the changes where we live will do our part to prevent climate chaos. We will fly less and bike more. But the real power for positive change is political. It is in the hands of Senators Murkowski and Sullivan and Representative Young. Their grandchildren will have every right to ask them, What on earth were you thinking? Why did you do nothing while there was still time to make a difference?